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Tips and tricks to keeping plants alive in the winter cold

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EUREKA- As the nights begin to get colder, it’s not long before we starting seeing something most plant owners dread: freeze advisories.

Tender or tropical plants must be protected once those temperatures start dipping below the 32-degree mark. One tip experts give for protecting those plants is to use a row cover fabric. Draping the cover over plants can help protect from the chill, while still allowing the plants access to water and sunlight.

Another alternative is using a cold box, built with plastic sheeting and wood. Plants inside the box can stay warm even in the cool weather. For extra warmth, a seedling-warming pad can be placed in the box to create a better environment for tender plants.

During the rainy winter months, soil erosion is also an issue on the North Coast. To prevent soil from freezing or washing away, experts say to lay rice straw over the area. Rice straw can be used for several seasons and it also helps keep weeds out. Gardeners say to choose rice straw over other types because it has no seeds, meaning it will not promote the weed growth

However, not all plants need protection. Experts say some plants need that North Coast chill.

“A lot of the plants that we depend upon for food, berries, blueberries, fruit trees, need the cold to set fruit,” said Terry Kramer, Humboldt Botanical Gardens site manager. “They need the cold to make the plant go dormant. 800-1000 chill hours is usually what it takes for certain fruit trees, and berries blueberries to have a good fruit set the next year so the cold is good.”